[Editor’s Note: From now until Big Ten Media Days, we’ll be reaching into The-Ozone’s 23 years worth of archives and each day we will be posting a story from yesteryear. Big moments, small moments, big games, bigger games, and the random recruiting updates about guys you haven’t thought about in a decade or two.]
May 21, 2012 | This story comes from Tony Gerdeman and was published seven years ago today. It details the thoughts on Ohio State hiring Urban Meyer from a few former Michigan football greats. The former players are excited about the hire because … I don’t know why they were excited. They shouldn’t have been. — TG
Ann Arbor radio station WTKA had their annual “takeover” by Michigan football this past Friday, which features an all-day charity radiothon featuring nothing but Michigan football talk.
The marathon, which raised $78,117 per AnnArbor.com, is a yearly event benefiting C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor and brings in former players and current and former coaches to fill eleven hours of nothing but Michigan football airtime.
While the event raised thousands of dollars, it also raised some eyebrows when it came to former players talking about the Buckeyes. Specifically, a roundtable featuring Charles Woodson, Steve Hutchinson, Steve Everitt and Jake Long.
They talked about a variety of subjects, but one of the first things on the docket was Ohio State football, and Urban Meyer in particular.
Opinions on Meyer were positive, but nobody at the table sounded worried.
“The best part about it for me is that that rivalry and the way people look at it will go back to the days of old,” said former Ohioan Charles Woodson.
“To me it just brings the excitement of having Urban Meyer at Ohio State, having Brady Hoke back here at Michigan, and having our game once again have significance.”
If there was any significance of the game dipping in recent years, it obviously wasn’t on Ohio State’s part, but there’s little doubt that Meyer will be able to ramp it up to a level that Luke Fickell didn’t, or couldn’t last year.
“I’m all for it,” Woodson continued. “I think they’ll be good under Coach Meyer. But we’ve got a great coach. I’m telling you, it’s only going to get better.”
After taking over a program that had won just seven games the year before, and just fifteen over the previous three years, it is very easy to see why former players are extremely high on Brady Hoke.
After all, he won eleven games in just his first season as head coach, and eleven-win seasons don’t happen very often at Michigan. In fact, it has only happened five times in the last 107 years of Wolverine football (a number which Jim Tressel matched in just nine years).
When Hutchinson was asked about Meyer, he began his answer by talking about the new Buckeye head coach, but seemed to end it by talking about the Wolverines’ last head coach.
“I think he knows what he’s getting into. But for us it’s about that game. I’m sure they have other ones too, but getting into that game, and whichever stadium it is, that’s the holy land of football. That’s the grail of college football, and you better know what the stakes are before you walk into that game.”
Woodson and Hutchinson touched on a very important aspect of the future of this rivalry—both head coaches have ties to the rivalry and their respective universities that go back decades. They know exactly what the stakes are when it comes to The Game because both have grown up around it.
John Cooper and Rich Rodriguez had to be taught about the rivalry, and lessons like those never truly heal.
While Hutchinson and Woodson were quite diplomatic about their answers, Jake Long’s thoughts were perfectly emblematic of the tone that the Wolverines had when his class was going 0-4 against Ohio State.
“Honestly, I don’t care what they do,” he said. “I don’t care who they bring in or what they do. I believe in our coaches, I believe in Coach Hoke, I believe in the players that they are going to bring in.
“We turned it around last year getting that win. I know it was a long time, but we’re on the right path and we’re gonna bring in the guys and it’s gonna be an emphasis again and we’ll get back on that winning track.”
Obviously, one win doesn’t make a turnaround, but certainly a mental turnaround came with Hoke’s hiring. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in a rivalry is win a game that you’re supposed to win, and the Wolverines did that last year for the first time in nearly a decade.
The fact that that win came in a year of massive distraction at Ohio State last season matters very little to history. Quarter has never been asked for in this rivalry, and last year was no exception.
Not everybody would be happy with “just” getting back on a winning track, however, as Steve Everitt would apparently like to see quite a bit of blood spilled along the way as well.
“I say that we build on this year and we split their wig every year for the next twenty years,” he said, clearly indifferent to the popularity of concussion discussions over the last year.
Where there is no indifference, however, is to the growing health of the rivalry between these two programs. At a time of massive upheavel in the world of college football, Michigan and Ohio State are two programs that are clearly solidifying their footing in the industry.
A new chapter will begin in 2012, and it will be the first real chance for Brady Hoke or Urban Meyer to truly set the tone for this series like Jim Tressel did in 2001 or Lloyd Carr did in 1995.
After an unsettling last four years for the rivalry, this year both teams will meet on the field at full strength, and — for some reason — several former Wolverines seem to be looking forward to it.